THE last bottle to come from Kalinka sees the return of a familiar Eastern-European name. Do you remember my look at the high-quality yet ultimately bland Lithuanian beer, Švyturys Ekstra? No? Then click on the link and have a read. Because this, is it’s pricier and inadequately labelled cousin: Švyturys Ekstra Draught.
For £2.00, you might expect an even classier look than regular Ekstra. And that’s what it has. But at the expense of the labels. You won’t find any detailed historical descriptions. Nor information about awards won. Or even web address of www.svyturys.lt. None of which would fit on the tiny, foil, neck wrap around label.
But none of that matters. Because the embossed Švyturys logo, shield and other bits and pieces are some of the best you’ll find.
It doesn’t show up very well in a photo. But believe me, it looks impressive. Not to mention the tactile quality this work adds to a bottle. It may not be to the insane extremes of bottles of Cobra beer, but the it sports all manner of moulded glass objects. The big, impressive, shield is there. As is the eagle. The year “1784”. And images of hops and barley. It doesn’t say very much. But then it doesn’t need to.
The front of the neck foil doesn’t add much either.
It gives away enough for you to make the connection between this bottle and that of regular Švyturys Ekstra. It’s clear enough that this is called “Draught”. Although the girl behind the till couldn’t see the difference between the two. The small, gold roundel isn’t big enough to make any sense of what look like medals though. You’ll need to look elsewhere to figure out what they are. It does help you learn that “Alus” means “Beer” however. And that’s useful to know.
Over on the back of the neck foil, and everything is a jumble. Partly because there’s hardly a trace of English. Partly because it’s foil and too crinkly to read in places.
There is enough though to learn that this 0.5L bottle has the respectable alcoholic volume of 5.2%. And that its ingredients include water, malted barley, rice and hops. Besides that, there’s practically nothing else on there to read.
Švyturys Ekstra Draught then, is a bottle that’s virtually insisting that you drink it instead of reading it. So let’s do just that. Will it succeed where regular Švyturys Ekstra failed? Will it have flavour and taste? What will it be like? And will it be that rarest of things; an Eastern-European beer I can wholeheartedly recommend? I hope so. Let’s pour.
Watch out for that head. It’s perfectly manageable, but you’ll need to go carefully to fit it all in your pint glass. After a couple of minutes, the foamy head dies down to thin blotchy layer. Not great, but at least it has something.
I do like the way Švyturys Ekstra Draught smells. A pleasant whiff of malted barley greets your nose. Not very strong. But not weak enough to make you question all the money you handed over for this bottle.
How does it taste? After three big gulps, I would say, quite nice. The flavour is of that malted barley. And that flavour changes, seamlessly I might add, to a lingering, bitter aftertaste. That must be the rice at work. Every beer I’ve tried that includes rice has this well-rounded flavour and balance. Then again, the word I thought was “rice” was half hidden by a crinkle in the foil.
Around a third of the way though, and what am I liking about Švyturys Ekstra Draught? And what will you like about it? Well, it is a good looking product. If people see you purchasing, and drinking it, chances are they will think you have taste. And refinement. And deep pockets. I like the way Švyturys Ekstra Draught tastes. It has a little flavour and enough taste. Something regular Švyturys Ekstra went without. Most importantly, it’s very drinkable. My bottle has been in the fridge for a few hours, so it’s cold and crisp. And not having an offensive flavour or taste, it is very easy to drink. Not too weak either.
Half-way through now, and there are a few niggles to report. I’m burping more than usual, so it must be gassy. Then there’s the flavour. It may be palatable, but there are problems. It has some flavour, but not enough, and not interesting enough for my tastes. Then the bitter aftertaste wears thin quickly. This stops it from being refreshing. And it will be too strong and too bitter for some. Lastly, we can’t ignore how expensive and hard to find Švyturys Ekstra Draught is in Britain.
To sum up, Švyturys Ekstra Draught is better than it’s cheaper, easier to find cousin Švyturys Ekstra. It’s got a stronger taste and is very drinkable. But it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Nearly at the end of the glass now, and that bitter aftertaste has become as tasty as a bar of soap. Recommended for fans of interesting European beers with a taste, and who have money to spare.
Have you tried Švyturys Ekstra Draught? What did you think of it?
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